By Cullen Brown
This is one of Dr. Seuss' most well known stories, as it explores prejudice and racism. In a nutshell, some of the Sneetches have stars on their bellies, and some don't. The starry Sneetches thought they were better than their non-starred counterparts, and acted accordingly. Then a salesman, called Sylvester McMonkey McBean - aka "the fix-it-up chappie," enters the scene. For only $3, he will affix a star to the belly of a non-starred Sneetch. This upsets the originally starred Sneetches, who then pay $10 dollars to have their stars removed. As soon as not having a star means greater status, then all of the sneetches try to get their stars removed. Then put back on. Then removed. And etc. until "neither knew whether this one was that one... or that one was this one...or which one was what one... or what one was who." The point of the story obviously being that if we remove external differences, we'll discover that we're all really the same, and we'll all get along.
Except that we don't. Will removing the stars take away the desire to hoard and insulate on the part of the starred Sneetches? Or will adding a star remove the desire for status on the part of the non-starred Sneetches? (You'll notice the non-stared group weren't going after the food - they wanted the status..) Dr. Seuss was actually writing this story as a protest against anti-semitism. The Jewish people have been forced to wear stars in certain time periods, and it was clearly to set them apart - and below. Since he published this story in the early 1960's, Dr. Seuss must have also been thinking about racial equality. But removing all the external things that make us different is not going to have a magic wand affect. It's what's on the inside that is revealed in the outside actions. Even without the stars, the Sneetches would have found some new thing to rank themselves by. What would have been nice to see is if a starred Sneetch noticed a non-starred Sneetch was hungry, and shared some of the frankfurters and marshmallows. Just walked over and said "Here you go. I thought you might be hungry." In other words, practiced some of the Corporal Works of Mercy. Now, in real life situations that would be particularly helpful. So, this really brings up an interesting point. Can we make the most difference by giving up all that we have (which Jesus told the "rich young man" to do) and moving into closer solidarity with the poor, or by staying where we are and using the gifts we've been given? Seems like the call to stewardship applies in both cases. Clearly ,this is a much more complicated story than what it seems to be at first glance.
The Growing Heart of the Grinch
By Orville Wilson
This Grinchy ornament features the pivotal moment in the Grinch story, when the Grinch is standing alone (except for the trusty dog), up on his frozen mountain, and hears the singing of the Whos in Whoville on Christmas morning. It is then, the tale goes, that his heart began to grow. It grew 3 sizes, in fact. This is a wonderful way to pull out one of the recurrent themes in Scripture - the transition from the heart of stone to a heart of flesh. In this story, the Grinch discovers that having all the stuff in the world (literally, in his case, since he's spent all night stealing the stuff of the Whos) still is not what his heart desires. Besides taking all the gifts from the Whos, the Grinch fully expects to find great joy in causing suffering to others. How he would have reacted if the Whos had been sad and disappointed to find a thief had come in the night, we never find out. Instead of drowning in despair, the Whos quickly reveal a community of charity that is quite something. They must have figured out that the Grinch was behind the theft, yet they instead chose to focus on the true meaning of Christmas - God with us. The gifts on Christmas morning are small sharings, little visible symbols of the great blessings that come with the Incarnation. That Christ has been born in the hearts of the Whos is obvious, as they invite the Grinch to sit down with them to their feast, despite the fact that he reveals himself as the one behind the theft when he sails into the village on his loaded down sleigh.
The Father in the story of the Prodigal Son acts in the same way as the Whos, in rejoicing at the reappearance of his wayward son, despite the son's poor treatment of him and his family. The Father also entreats the older son to respond with the same heart the Whos show, to find a greater good in the return to life of the younger son than in seeking justice for his actions. To allow mercy to trump justice. The Father asks the older son to have a heart of flesh. Not just at Christmas but every day, that's the same question we have to ask ourselves. How many sizes does my heart need to grow today?